Preparing a fluffy, weed-free, well-draining seedbed in a nice sunny spot is the best way to ensure a successful crop. Rake the area smooth, breaking up any clumps and removing stones and weeds. Seeds are usually planted in either a narrow row, a 12" x 12" square, or a 2' to 3' wide bed. The choice is entirely up to you and depends on the layout of your garden and what feels best to you as you tend to and harvest your Salad Greens. You can think outside the box too: Salad Greens are as beautiful as they are delicious and nutritious. There is no reason why they can't share prime flower garden space as long as the sunlight and radiant heat are not too severe.
Check each of our seed packets to determine how deep to plant the seeds and how much space to allow between the seeds. Though seeds are inexpensive, taking time to plant only the recommended number of seeds saves a lot of time later. You won't need to thin, and your plants will stay healthier and be more productive when they're not overcrowded. If you are unsure how deep to plant the seeds, a general rule is to cover seeds to a depth that's no more than three times their diameter. Lettuce seeds, for instance, should only be covered with about 1/8" of soil.
Consistent moisture is critical for good germination. Many seeds have a tough protective seed coat that must be softened for seven to 10 days before a sprout can emerge. After planting, water the area very gently to avoid disturbing the seeds and let the water soak in to a depth of several inches. To ensure the top inch of soil stays consistently moist, you may need to sprinkle the soil surface once or twice a day, or cover the area with garden fabric to help retain moisture. Once the seedlings break through the soil surface, you can reduce your watering schedule to several times per week (unless rainfall is sufficient). Once the plants are established, you can cut back watering even further.
So Easy to Direct-Sow
Your spring planting schedule is governed by the Frost-Free Date (FFD) for your location. On and after that date, the soil is relatively warm and the risk of a killing frost is very low. You can get your Frost-Free Date from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Go there, select your State from the pull down menu, choose the location nearest or most similar to where you live. Once you know your Frost-Free Date, you can make a little plan for your own Salad Greens garden.
Three to four weeks before your Frost-Free Date, you can actually get outside and prep the garden. If it's a cold, soggy spring, wait an extra week until the soil has dried out so it won't get clumpy. Loosen the soil and remove weeds. Mix in well-rotted, aged compost and a granular, all-purpose organic fertilizer as necessary.
Plant a Little Every Week
By sowing some seeds every week or two, you will help guarantee a good continuous salad supply. Each time a crop is removed, add some compost, turn the soil, rake it smooth and plant some more seeds. If any of your summer annuals have petered out, remove them early and plant decorative and delicious clusters of greens like Magenta Sunset or Orange Chiffon Swiss Chard (and enjoy Chard Lasagne). Keep planting right until the end of September, and even later if you live in warmer climes. (You can also plant Beets, Carrots, Endive, Escarole, Peas, Turnips and Asian Greens.)
Leafy greens grow best when air and soil temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees F. Since the salads you’ll be enjoying in September require seed sowing in August (check out the days to maturity for each variety), you’ll need to shield the young seedlings from sun and heat, and coddle them with consistent moisture until they are well-established. To create this sort of cool microclimate, make use of the shade from a tree, shrub or big perennial, or shade cloth stretched over a temporary lattice lean-to.